Simla Conference

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At the Conference: Rajendra Prasad, Jinnah, C. Rajagopalachari and Maulana Azad Simla conference.JPG
At the Conference: Rajendra Prasad, Jinnah, C. Rajagopalachari and Maulana Azad

The Simla Conference 1945 was a meeting between the Viceroy of India Lord Wavell and the major political leaders of British India at Simla. Convened to agree on and approve the Wavell Plan for Indian self-government, and there it reached a potential agreement for the self-rule of India that provided separate representation for Muslims and reduced majority powers for both communities in their majority regions.

Governor-General of India position

The Governor-General of India was the representative of the Monarch of the United Kingdom and after Indian independence in 1947, the representative of the Indian head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William. The officer had direct control only over Fort William, but supervised other East India Company officials in India. Complete authority over all of British India was granted in 1833, and the official came to be known as the "Governor-General of India".

Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell senior officer of the British Army

Field Marshal Archibald Percival Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell, was a senior officer of the British Army. He served in the Second Boer War, the Bazar Valley Campaign and World War I, during which he was wounded in the Second Battle of Ypres. He served in the Second World War, initially as Commander-in-Chief Middle East, in which role he led British forces to victory over the Italians in western Egypt and eastern Libya during Operation Compass in December 1940, only to be defeated by the German Army in the Western Desert in April 1941. He served as Commander-in-Chief, India, from July 1941 until June 1943 and then served as Viceroy of India until his retirement in February 1947.

Shimla Capital city of the state of Himachal Pradesh in India

Shimla, also known as Simla, is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is also a district which is bounded by the state of Uttarakhand in the south-east, districts of Mandi and Kullu in the north, Kinnaur in the east, Sirmaur in the south and Solan in the west. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later made the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of the state.


Talks, however, stalled on the issue of selection of Muslim representatives. Seeking to assert itself and its claim to be the sole representative of Indian Muslims, the All-India Muslim League refused to back any plan in which the Indian National Congress, the dominant party in the talks, appointed Muslim representatives. [1] This scuttled the conference, and perhaps the last viable opportunity for a united, independent India. When the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League reconvened under the Cabinet Mission the next year, the Indian National Congress was far less sympathetic to the Muslim League's requests despite Jinnah's approval of the British plan.[ citation needed ]

All-India Muslim League political party within the Indian Empire

The All-India Muslim League was a political party established in 1906 in the British Indian Empire. Its strong advocacy for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state, Pakistan, successfully led to the partition of British India in 1947 by the British Empire.

Indian National Congress Major political party in India

The Indian National Congress(pronunciation ) is a broadly based political party in India. Founded in 1885, it was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa. From the late 19th century, and especially after 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress became the principal leader of the Indian independence movement. Congress led India to independence from Great Britain, and powerfully influenced other anti-colonial nationalist movements in the British Empire.

On 14 June 1945 Lord Wavell announced a plan for a new Executive Council in which all members except the Viceroy and the Commander in Chief would be Indians. This executive council was to be a temporary measure until a new permanent constitution could be agreed upon and come into force. All portfolios except Defense would be held by Indian members. [2]

Lord Wavell

Prime Minister Winston Churchill as head of the war cabinet proposed Field Marshal Wavell's name to his cabinet in mid-June 1943, as India's next viceroy. General Sir Claude Auchinleck who had followed Wavell in his middle eastern command was to be the next commander in chief of Indian army after Lord Wavell. In October 1943 the British Government decided to replace Lord Linlithgow with Lord Wavell as the Viceroy of India. Before assuming the viceroyalty, Lord Wavell had been head of the Indian army and thus had an understanding of the Indian situation. On becoming Viceroy, Wavell’s most important task was to present a formula for the future government of India which would be acceptable to both the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Head of UK Government

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, until 1801 known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is the head of government of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister directs both the executive and the legislature, and together with their Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Monarch, to Parliament, to their political party and ultimately to the electorate. The office of Prime Minister is one of the Great Offices of State. The current holder of the office, Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party, was appointed by the Queen on 13 July 2016.

Winston Churchill 20th-century Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British statesman, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was instead a member of the Liberal Party.

Churchill war ministry Government of the United Kingdom

The Churchill war ministry was the United Kingdom's coalition government for most of the Second World War from 10 May 1940 to 23 May 1945. It was led by Winston Churchill, who was appointed Prime Minister by King George VI following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain in the aftermath of the Norway Debate.

Background of the Simla Conference

Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement in August 1942, after which he was arrested with other Congress lieutenants like Nehru and Patel. He was kept separate in Agha Khan's Pune palace while others were kept in Ahmednagar Fort.[ circular reference ] Now he decided to launch his '' Satyagraha '', he commenced after the early morning breakfast on 10 February 1943 a fast for 21 days. Weighing 109 pounds when he started fast lost eighteen pounds after his 21-day ordeal. Fearing the death of Gandhi in prison as before him Kasturba his wife and Mahadev Desai his private secretary were died in the same prison in Pune Palace, Lord Linlithgow recommended Churchill immediate unconditional release of Gandhi. Churchill wrote back to Linlithgow, "it seems almost certain that the old rascal [Gandhi] will emerge all better for his so-called fast.'' Gandhi broke his fast on 3 March 1943. [3] Gandhi suffered from malaria, and after that his health was seriously deteriorated. New Viceroy Archibald Wavell, recommended his unconditional release, Leo Amery the secretary of state for India convinced Churchill to release Gandhi on medical grounds, so he was released. Instead of dying Gandhi showed remarkable resilience and recovered. It was quite funny when Churchill sent Wavell a peevish telegram asking ''why Gandhi has not died yet?'' [3] Communal problem was the greatest problem for any political advance in India, so Wavell also began to agree with Amery's conviction that until "Aged Trinity" (Gandhi, Churchill and Jinnah) is in lead there is a little chance of any political advance. Lord Wavell had a plan in his mind and was eager to invite key leaders to a summit, but he was waiting for something to come out of Gandhi-Jinnah meetings rescheduled on 9 September. [2] C. Rajagopalachari has presented a formula before that meeting that was accepting the Muslim right for a separate homeland. Talks started on 9 September 1944 in Mallabar Hill house of Jinnah, both leaders spent three and half hours of secret discussion but Gandhi later with C. R. called it a "test of my patience and nothing and I am amazed at my own patience." Their second meeting proved no more fruitful than first one, Jinnah sensed by this time the futility of talks. Then there was a session of written correspondence on 11, 12, 13 and 14 September, and on 24, 25 and 26 September 1944, but nothing came out of it. Gandhi by now believed that "Jinnah was a good person but he suffers hallucination when he imagines about unnatural division of India and creation of Pakistan". [2] Wavell wired to Amery, "Gandhi wants independence first and then willing to resolve communal problem as he is profoundly a Hindu and wants transfer of full Power to some nebulous national", While Jinnah wants to settle down communal problem first and then wants independence as he has lost his trust in Congress and Hindus." Wavell also viewed this mini-summit breakdown a personal challenge to bring together two parties. He has many creative ideas, and was willing to use his influence and power to settle the communal deadlock. He would try to bring some moderate Indian leaders on a settlement by calling them to Shimla (India's summer capital). His list included as he told to Amery, "Gandhi and one "other" of Congress party, Jinnah and one other member of Muslim League, Dr. Ambedkar to represent "Depress classes", Tara Singh to represent Sikhs, M. N. Roy for labor representation, and some other to represent Non-Congress and Non-League Hindus and Muslims. After correspondence with Amery in October, now Wavell decided to write Churchill directly and he tried to convince Churchill in this regard though he was sure that Churchill was reluctant for any summit as "he hate India and anything to do with it". Churchill informed Amery the possibility to see Wavell not before March 1945, Wavell on his own behalf met with Jinnah on 6 December, and tried to convince him to live in United India as this will be much more beneficial for all as it will represent a strong nation on international level. Jinnah argued that "Indian unity was only a British creation". Benghal's governor Richard Casey was well informed about Congress-League relation that he wrote to Wavell, "Congress is basically responsible for the growth of Pakistan idea, by the way they treated the Muslims especially by refusing them into coalition provincial governments." Wavell agreed with everything Casey said about Pakistan, writing in his reply "I do not believe that Pakistan will work". [3] Churchill chaired his war cabinet that reviewed and rejected Wavell's proposal for constitutional reforms in India on December 18. [3] But Wavell was invited to visit England, and met with Churchill and Cabinet in May 1945. Wavell was allowed to fly back to India in June 1945 to release Congress Working Committee member and start talks that was later called Shimla Conference. Wavell decided to call all key leaders of India in Shimla on 25 June 1945 and broadcast a message to all Indians on 14 June 1945 showing British willingness to give India dominion status as soon as possible if the communal deadlock is broken down. "India needs a surgical operation", Nehru noted after considering Wavell's idea, "We have to get rid of our preoccupation with petty problem" as he considered communal problem a petty problem. Jinnah accepted the invitation but if he could meet with Wavell alone first on 24 June. [3]

Mahatma Gandhi Pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism during British-ruled India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā was applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa and is now used worldwide. In India, he was also called Bapu, a term that he preferred, and Gandhi ji, and is known as the Father of the Nation.

Quit India Movement Katra Neel Chandni Chowk Delhi

The Quit India Movement, or the August Movement, was a movement launched at the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee by Gandhi on 8 August 1942, during World War II, demanding an end to British Rule of India.

Jawaharlal Nehru first Prime Minister of India

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian independence activist, and subsequently, the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence. He emerged as an eminent leader of the Indian independence movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and served India as Prime Minister from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in 1964. He has been described by the Amar Chitra Katha as the architect of India. He was also known as Pandit Nehru due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community while Indian children knew him as Chacha Nehru.

Details of the Conference

One day before the conference was convened on 24 June, Wavell met with Azad, Gandhi and Jinnah to assess their approach. He noted in his diary, "Gandhi and Jinnah are behaving like very temperamental prima donnas". Lord Wavell officially opened the summit at 11:00 am on 25 June 1945. In the beginning Azad being president of Congress spoke of its "non-communal" character. Jinnah spoke of Congress' predominately Hindu character, at that point there was a tug of war that was settled down by Wavell's intervention. On the morning of 29 June the conference was reconvened and Wavell asked parties to submit list of candidates for his new council, Azad agreed while Jinnah refused to submit a list before consulting Muslim League's working committee. Conference was adjourned till 14 July, meanwhile Wavell met with Jinnah on 8 July and tried to convince him as Jinnah was determined to nominate all Muslim member from Muslim League's platform as he considered Congress Muslim representatives as "Show Boys". Wavell gave him a letter that was placed in front of Muslim League's Working Committee on 9 July. Jinnah replied after careful consideration of Working Committee, "I regret to inform you that you have been failed to give assurance relating nomination of all Muslim members form Muslim League's platform so we are not able to submit a list." The Viceroy was equally resolved not to give at that point and wired to Amery at that night his own list of new council members. Four were to be Muslim League members (Liaquat Ali Khan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman and Eassak Sait) and another Non-League Muslim Muhammad Nawaz Khan (a Punjabi landlord). The five 'Caste Hindus' had to be Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Madhav Shrihari Aney, B. N. Rau. Tara Singh was to represent Sikhs and B. R. Ambedkar to "untouchables" John Mathai was the only Christian thus bringing total to sixteen with Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief. Amery asked Wavell to consult this list with Jinnah, when Jinnah was asked about Muslim names he bitterly refused to allow any League member to be part of the government until the League's right to be the sole representative of Muslims of India was acknowledged. Wavell found this demand impossible thus he half an hour later told Gandhi about his failure, Gandhi took news calmly and said "H. M. G. sooner or later have to take Hindu or Muslim point of view as they were irreconcilable." Thus the Wavell plan that was later to be called Shimla Conference was badly failed. [2]

Abul Kalam Azad Indian scholar

Maulana Sayyid Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin Ahmed bin Khairuddin Al-Hussaini Azadpronunciation  was an Indian scholar, activist and a senior leader of the Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement. Following India's independence, he became the First Minister of Education in the Indian government Minister of Human Resource Development. He is commonly remembered as Maulana Azad; the word Maulana is an honorific meaning 'Our Master', and he had adopted Azad (Free) as his pen name. His contribution to establishing the education foundation in India is recognised by celebrating his birthday as "National Education Day" across India.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah Founder and 1st Governor General of Pakistan

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a lawyer, politician and the founder of Pakistan. Jinnah served as the leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until Pakistan's creation on 14 August 1947, and then as Pakistan's first Governor-General until his death. He is revered in Pakistan as Quaid-i-Azam and Baba-i-Qaum, "Father of the Nation"). His birthday is considered a national holiday in Pakistan.

Leo Amery politician and journalist

Leopold Charles Maurice Stennett Amery CH, usually known as Leo Amery or L. S. Amery, was a British Conservative Party politician and journalist, noted for his interest in military preparedness, British India and the British Empire and for his opposition to appeasement.

Detailed Wavell Plan

In May 1945 Wavell visited London and discussed his ideas with the British Government. These London talks resulted in the formulation of a definite plan of action which was officially made public simultaneously on 14 June 1945 by L.S. Amery, the Secretary of State for India, in the House of Commons and by Wavell in a broadcast speech delivered from Delhi. The plan, commonly known as the Wavell Plan, proposed the following:

1. The Viceroy’s Executive Council would be immediately reconstituted and the number of its members would be increased.

2. In the Council there would be equal representation of high-caste Hindus and Muslims.

4. All the members of the Council, except the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, would be Indians.

5. An Indian would be appointed as the member for Foreign Affairs in the Council. However, a British commissioner would be responsible for trade matters.

6. The defence of India would remain in British hands until power was ultimately transferred to Indians.

7. The Viceroy would convene a meeting of Indian politicians including the leaders of Congress and the Muslim League at which they would nominate members of the new Council.

8. If this plan were to be approved for the central government, then similar councils of local political leaders would be formed in all the provinces.

9. None of the changes suggested would in any way prejudice or prejudge the essential form of the future permanent Constitution of India.

To discuss these proposals with Indian leaders, Wavell summoned them to a conference to take place in Simla on 25 June 1945.

Criticism of Wavell Plan

The Wavell Plan, in essence, proposed the complete Indianisation of the Executive Council, but instead of asking all the parties to nominate members to the Executive Council from all the communities, seats were reserved for members on the basis of religion and caste, with the caste Hindus and Muslims being represented on it on the basis of parity. Even Mahatma Gandhi resented the use of the words “caste Hindus”.

While the plan proposed immediate changes to the composition of the Executive Council it did not contain any guarantee of Indian independence, nor did it contain any mention of a future constituent assembly or any proposals for the division of power between the various parties of India.

Failure of the Simla Conference

Meanwhile, a general election had been held in the United Kingdom in July 1945 which had brought the Labour Party to power. The Labour party wanted to transfer power to the Indians as quickly as possible. The new government sent the Cabinet Mission to India and this proved to be the final nail in the coffin of the Wavell Plan.

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  1. "India: Simla Conference 1945". Time . 9 July 1945.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Wolpert, Stanley (2013). Jinnah of Pakistan (15th ed.). Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press. pp. 242–245. ISBN   978-0-19-577389-7.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Wolpert, Stanley (2012). Shameful Flight. Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press. pp. 79–82. ISBN   978-0-19-906606-3.